Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett is on his way to being bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves, with it being reported that the move is official. What that means for him, his career, and his legacy cold all depend on where he ends up.
Bennett is set to be arguably the biggest flop of any top pick in NBA history. According to Basketball-Reference.com, since 1952, no one has been selected first and notched a worse win share total. In layman’s terms, “Egads!”
Bennett has been bothered by weight and injury problems. He’s been inconsistent, and even at his best has never come close to vindicating his selection status. After two seasons, the best game of his career was a 19-point, 10-rebound outing while he was still in Cleveland. He’s recorded just four career double-doubles. So, it’s not a surprise that the deep Minnesota Timberwolves would rather pay him to leave than occupy a roster spot.
And there’s the fact that even his draft status was unwarranted. Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers, is on track to be remembered as one of the all-time draft busts in league history. Nevertheless, no one beyond the Cavaliers front office had Bennett pegged as a top-10 pick in that draft – never mind No. 1 overall.
So, the scramble of teams vying for his services might not be as mad as if Anthony Davis were waived. But there are still teams who are willing to roll the dice and hope that what Cleveland saw in him. His improvement this summer is cause for optimism.
As TFB colleague Sean Kennedy points out, one potential landing spot is the Philadelphia 76ers:
Besides simply having the cap space to do so, there are a few reasons the Sixers might opt to roll the dice with Bennett. First, there was much speculation about the Sixers grabbing Bennett as part of the three-team deal that originally sent him to Minnesota from Cleveland. Also, the situation is very similar to the Thomas Robinson waiver claim the Sixers made last season. Like Bennett, Robinson was a former high lottery pick who’d bounced around with a couple teams while still on his rookie deal. The Sixers decided to see if a change of scenery and more playing time might unlock something in Robinson, who played 22 games for Philadelphia.
It’s a valid point. Sam Hinkie is always willing to take a gamble, and the Sixers have the cap space to absorb his contract if he’s waived.
The only other team that can do that is the Portland Trail Blazers. Dave Deckard at Blazers Edge point out:
Bennett is scheduled to make $5.8 million next season with team options/qualifying offers making him potentially available until the summer of 2018, with his salary topping out at $9.5 million under his current contract structure. The Blazers could absorb the initial year without impacting their cap situation…in essence a free one-year trial. They’d have to commit more salary to him long-term if they wanted the experiment to extend beyond that. The potential for sewing him up would be the main reason to take on his current contract.
On a team that just lost LaMarcus Aldridge and now has a depth chart consisting of Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Cliff Alexander at the power forward, there’s virtually no risk whatsoever in picking up Bennett and whatever sliver of a chance of a reward there is makes sense in light of that.
Best case scenario: Bennett shows his improvement from this summer is no fluke. He could fit well between three-point shooters Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard. That could allow room for him to get to the rim, where he was actually pretty productive last season.
Worst case scenario: Bennett is awful and costs the Trail Blazers a few games, thereby improving Portland’s draft status. Ergo, there is no losing situation for Rip City. There’s no good reason not to sign him.
If neither the Sixers nor Trail Blazers work out, Bennett most likely goes unclaimed. (There are scenarios where the Utah Jazz or Cleveland Cavaliers could work out a claim, but neither is realistically happening).
There are other teams who could show interest in him on the cheap, though. The Atlanta Hawks could look for a replacement for Mike Scott if he ends up in prison. The Charlotte Hornets are woefully thin at the 4, gambling that Frank Kaminsky is going to work out.
Bennett wouldn’t be any worse than Charlie Villanueva with the Dallas Mavericks. Bennett fits the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuilding situation. The New York Knicks could conceivably claim him. I mean, they’re already gambling on Derrick Williams, so why not? The Phoenix Suns have been looking to deal Markeiff Morris. Signing Bennett could give them more options on the trade market. And the Sacramento Kings are always willing to do the unorthodox.
The Toronto Raptors are a bit thin at power forward, and would benefit from bringing in the Canadian wonder, but Michael Grange of SportsNet doesn’t think they’d be a landing spot:
Expectation is Bennett will land somewhere, but Raptors not likely among the suitors; front court pretty full. https://t.co/LsENQSId2K
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) September 22, 2015
Bennett is likely to get more playing time somewhere, next year. My guess is that the Trail Blazers are the most likely spot because they make the most sense. But that’s just speculation. Wherever it is, they’ll be hoping that hard work he’s put in this offseason is vindicated, even his No. 1 overall selection never is.